Do or Die: How to Build Confidence in Self Defense
Self-confidence is a manifestation of trust in yourself. It is faith that your experience and understanding will guide and protect you when there is change, challenge, or difficulty. It is a belief in your own capabilities and skills. What could be more important in a life and death scenario?
One of the critical factors that contribute to success is self-confidence. With confidence, we can learn new skills, we can defeat an opponent, and we can reach our goals despite terrible adversity. Confidence is the fuel that allows us to continue regardless of what struggles may lay ahead. With it, we will not be inclined to quit. Marcus Tullius Cicero said,
With confidence, you have won even before you have started.
Having confidence in your ability to fight will allow you to act swiftly when your life is threatened. It will allow you to continue even when faced with possible failure. If you lack confidence, you may never take action, and you may not even be able to decide what to do.
We lack confidence when we lack knowledge and experience. A lack of confidence comes from a lack of knowledge or a feeling of being unprepared. It comes from fear of the unknown. We lack confidence when we do not know what to expect. When we have no experience, we have no basis for evaluating our ability to handle a stressful situation. On the contrary, if we do have experience, a lack of confidence can be a result of a history of failures and low self-esteem. The good news is that we can change all of those factors above and purposefully develop confidence.
Building confidence is not just a matter of positive thinking, you can actually build it. Self-confidence can be general or specific. General self-confidence is more of a personality trait, and it is related to your behavior across many areas of your life. Specific self-confidence is more of a state of mind that relates to your knowledge and abilities in a specific area. For this article, I discuss building confidence specifically for self-defense and martial arts. You can’t just talk yourself into having more confidence with affirmations and positive thinking. That doesn't build trust or belief. There is a formula for cultivating confidence.
The formula for building your self-confidence is simple. First, you must expand your knowledge on the subject. Then, take action to improve your skills. Finally, you must build experience and recognize your successes. This approach will build the trust in your abilities. If you follow these steps, you will improve both your specific and general self-confidence.
Expand your Knowledge
The best antidote for a lack of confidence is planning and preparing for the unknown. You can start by expanding your knowledge. Knowledge alone can dispel anxiety and start to build confidence.
Research violence, crime, and security. Learn about personal crimes, including robbery, assault, battery, rape, kidnapping, homicide, and any other threats to your security. You may not know exactly what specific threats you may face, but you can learn why and how typical violent crimes occur. You can study and understand the nature of the threats you may face by studying examples in news reports, video footage, and personal accounts. With that knowledge, you will begin to understand the threat and consider your options.
The added awareness from your research will give you the resources to begin planning solutions for your security. You will be ready to start a plan of action to acquire the skills you need. With your research, you can learn what others have done to survive violent attacks. You can research what training is available and then decide what training you will pursue.
Self-confidence comes from taking action and taking risks, not from worrying about your problems. After you have gained some knowledge through your research, you have to act on it. Making a decision and taking action is the only way to develop the skills you need. It is also the only way you will learn to survive an attack. When an attack comes you need to be able to take action immediately. If you make it a habit to take action, even with small things, you will be strengthening your ability to act when your are confronted with a life threatening problem. Like lifting weights, taking small risks will strengthen your confidence to take bigger ones. Take the next step, and start training.
There are many things you need to learn and train. Develop situational awareness, and learn to recognize a threat. Learn to diffuse an attack using verbal skills and body language. Develop physical self-defense skills with a wide range of applications. Cultivate athleticism and pursue fitness so that you will have confidence in your body to perform under stress. All of these skills will give you a strong base you can draw on when you are confronted with a threat.
It does not matter where you start, just get started. It’s more important to start, than to wait until you are already in shape, or have the perfect schedule. You can work around any injuries or limitations.
Build Experience and Recognize your Successes
Taking action leads to experience, and experience leads to confidence. Your self-confidence is heavily based on your history. You need to create a history of successes in order to create a history that will bolster your self-confidence.
Repeated successes, specific to your training goals, will lead to more confidence in your self defense skills. If you learn to perform a technique while under the pressure of sparring or during a force-on-force drill, lift a heavier weight than you ever have before, or make the right choices in a training scenario, you will see your confidence grow in these areas.
In training, you need to prove to yourself your ability to be successful. Build a success record using SMART goals. Use this record as a reference to help you see the growth in your skills. Know your strengths and weaknesses. Experience will help you identify what you can improve and what you have already improved. Study and train to add more to your strengths. Tackle each of the weaknesses, and remember mistakes are learning opportunities. Break down what you are learning into small enough parts so that you can learn them. Use criticism from your instructor and peers as tool for improvement, and don’t let it affect your self esteem.
Experience gained through training can reduce anxiety. Progressive training suited to your skill level can help you learn to cope with the pressure of challenge. Scenario drills, force-on force-training, and sparring drills can inoculate you to stress. With a progressive approach, you will be able to cope with more and more stress. Ultimately, the experience gained through training also improves your comprehension and knowledge, which takes you back to the first step in building confidence discussed above.
Building self confidence in your ability to protect yourself will influence your general self-confidence in other areas of your life. You will find that because you know yourself better through the process of learning and creating success, you will feel better prepared to handle other challenges. The accumulated successes from your training will give you more faith in yourself. The approach described above can apply to any skill development.
Self-confidence leads to you being able to solve problems, take action after making mistakes, and making tough decisions when under pressure. It’s worth pursuing consciously, and it can easily be a part of a well structured training program.